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Connecting the Dots Between a Facebook Phone, Credits, and Wireless Payments

The Facebook phone is real, according to reports, albeit perhaps not in the form that the industry has envisioned - that is a device manufactured by Facebook, designed from the beginning for its website and embedded with its myriad services. HTC is said be debuting two Facebook-branded smartphones in February, Mashable reports. They will carry Facebook’s colors and brands, and run on modified versions of Google’s Android. They are also said to include Facebook integrations that will make it easier to call and message friends on the site as well as prominently display the News Feed.

Connecting the Dots

If true, the report dovetails on separate news that, when the dots are connected, suggests an interesting direction for Facebook as well as for marketers. For starters, the company recently told game developers they had to use its virtual currency, Facebook Credits. While many see this merely as a serious push by Facebook into the gaming space, some envision more grandiose plans on the part of Facebook.

"Facebook is using the gaming market to develop the next generation of banking and financial services," said Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano. It is positioning itself to become a financial services company or a metamediary between insurance companies, banks, auction markets and PayPal-like services, he said (via the E-Commerce Times).

Another "Dot" to be connected is the growing momentum behind smartphones as e-wallets, most recently illustrated by Apple.

Many Models

Firms, though, are approaching this latter model from many different directions. Sprint Nextel users can access the carrier’s mobile payments technology by linking their credit cards to their smartphones, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, PayPal, Amazon Payments and other accounts, then authorizing a purchase by entering a PIN.

Also, Bank of America is working on a project that would let customers use their smartphones to pay for purchases in stores. Consumers install small chips in their devices that emit radio signals over very short distances and then "bump" or wave their phones with or at the point-of-sale devices in stores. Their bank account data is then collected and purchase is completed.

A pilot project by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile Discover Financial Services and Barclays uses contactless technology would convey the payments through Discover's payment network.

Then there is Square, a venture launched by Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey last year. The company sells a tiny device that plugs into a mobile phone's headphone jack and scans swiped credit cards. With the device, a shopper can pay for a product and receive an invoice by email.

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